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One Solution to Digital Retail Dilemmas

By Simon Moffatt, Senior Product Manager at ForgeRock – 

We live in a digital age where online shopping rules and Christmas gifts can be purchased from the comfort of our sofa/home, long after the shops have closed/at any time of the day or night. Managing and unifying cumbersome omnichannel environments to provide a secure and fluid user experience has become a top priority. But for retailers, allying digital services with existing brick and mortar operations is no easy matter.

According to Gartner's 2016 Chief Supply Chain Officer survey, 57 percent of CSOs listed the sales shift from physical stores to online retail as one of the three main threats that will impact their businesses over the next three years. Moreover, retailers face a crisis of customer trust and it’s not just a Baby Boomer issue- all age groups have issues with online shopping trust. An Accenture survey found that 57 percent of shoppers of all ages are very concerned that their personal information could be stolen during a transaction, whilst only a third of consumers are confident that their favorite retailers are keeping their personal information guarded.
But the shopper’s way is the only way. They demand frictionless, reliable and most crucially, secure retail experiences – online, in-store and through mobile apps. They expect to browse, shop and buy in whatever way works best for them, at any given moment, or they will look elsewhere. For retailers to remain competitive in the digital age, they must revolutionise the way they operate to meet these demands and provide a personalised, secure customer experience at every point of interaction, both digital and physical.

Retailers face four main challenges as they work to create this omnichannel shopping experience. The positive news is that digital identity management provides the answer to all of them.

  1. Data sharing and privacy concerns

Retail companies are racing to secure data and privacy as consumers, their connected devices and their preferred shopping method increasingly moves online. Retail data isn’t solely important to the outlet, it’s also vital to the customer – credit card information, addresses, emails and phone numbers. Keeping retail data secure is not just about meeting stringent new government or industry regulations, preventing financial loss and avoiding negative press, it’s also about safeguarding customer loyalty and trust.

Smart businesses will enable the customer to take the reins. Retailers can give customers the ability to specify who and what can access their personal data, when and for how long by employing a digital identity management platform. Customers should be able to determine which retail outlets get access to their data, for how long and under what conditions – with the click of a button. Only advanced digital identity technology can accommodate this level of consent-orientated data sharing.

  1. Failure to connect users, devices and things

Many retail organisations have developed fancy websites, mobile apps and physical stores with digital devices at the check-out stand to stay relevant and capture the most data possible. Unfortunately for retailers’ budgets, unless these initiatives are integrated and deliver a connected user experience they add the risk not only of incurring additional operational cost but also of frustrating impatient customers and partners.
Every retailer should register the digital identities of users, devices and connected things; link them together; authorise and de-authorise their access to data; apply policies that say what level and type of security is required; and tailor the experience to each individual identity’s established preferences.

  1. Impersonal, disjointed customer experiences

Many retailers lack personalised customer insight – or even the ability to create it – because their customer data is isolated in disparate data islands across their organisations, confined by legacy infrastructure and short-term IT fixes. Replace these islands with a single view of each customer through digital identity management, which brings together data about buying habits and history across channels, from in-store to online, across brands and business units.

A digital identity platform can combine all the associated identities of users, devices and connected things, so every department and every employee can respond to customers with an understanding of who they are and how they’ve interacted with the organisation across platforms. Many companies can collect shopper data and present returning customers with a list of past purchases, which is a somewhat static approach. By consolidating and utilising the customer data collected at every purchase point, however, retailers can provide a truly personalised shopping experience on any platform, even in-store.

  1. Lack of continuous, contextual security

Online fraud and identity theft are very real concerns for retailers and customers alike, damaging both brands and images, whilst also impacting revenue and incurring legal obligations. Traditional approaches to online security- perimeter defences- aren’t effective in multi-device, omnichannel world. A ‘secure’ system is not just a matter of having the right credentials, such as a username and password, and not losing or forgetting them.

Let’s say a “returning customer” wants to log into her account with an online retailer through an Android tablet device from an IP address located in Eastern Europe. In the past, this customer has logged in only through a Mac laptop or iPhone, and only from IP addresses in London. Retailers with advanced identity management capabilities will be able to identify this log in attempt as potentially fraudulent and deny access, or apply step-authentication – for instance, sending a security code to the customer’s mobile phone and asking for it to be entered online. Smart identity strategies using multi-factor authentication, social sign-on, passwordless log in and other techniques support frictionless, secure user experiences that promote trust and loyalty with consumers, and help retailers to prevent costly online crime.


Delivering effective solutions to these four challenges through digital identity management will improve the consumer experience, keep data protected, and therefore increase customer loyalty and promote a positive brand image for the retailer.

As digital retail success becomes more about how well you know your customers in an omnichannel world, digital identity will be vital to ensuring purchasing habits and customer data are safe and sound with a trusted retail outlet.